The Wall

INTRODUCTION

"Okay, okay" said Marsh "will yez give over fussing. I'm ready. Alright. Now for Jaysus' sad sake will yez get the fuck on with it. Wakin' a fellah up from the vasty deeps of his final kip and then keeping him hangin' about like a nun's cunt on the convent hook. That's the Irish Revolution for you, can't organize a haunt in a graveyard!"

"Just another minute, Tommy" said Redican. "We're waiting on Ructions."

"Oh, Doyle! So we're waitin' on Doyle are we? Well it's good to see how little changes. I'm dead an' eternity, and still I have to stand here waitin' on Doyle. Without as much as a bottle of stout to add a wee bit of wet to the peeled dry bones of me."

"Here's your pint" said Redican. "And a Powers, Tommy" added O'Donnell, holding out a glass and slyly pouring another large measure for himself.

Marsh drank deeply, quiet for the moment, appearing almost content.

"So I'm dead. I'm dear departed. But Doyle is just late, or maybe he's the late belated. But dead anyway. And what about youse pair. Are yez dead as well?"

O'Donnell helped himself to another bottle from the top shelf behind Clarke's snoring head.

"You've been resurrected, Tommy." He said. "You and Ructions. Me and Noel are still alive. We're just here as go-betweens kinda thing. Going between our present and your past or something like that. It wasn't explained very clearly."

"I don't like the sound of any of this bollocks" Marsh said. "Smells like religion to me. Resurrected!!! I'm not havin' any of that oul' superstition. Stuff and nonsense and Bishop's balls the lot of it."

"No, no Tommy." Redican interjected. "Its not religion. Its this here book."

"Book! What fuckin' book are ye on about? You and O'Donnell are a pair of notorious fucken illiterates. He draws pictures and you colour them in, that's as close as either of yez has ever got to a book. So, go on, tell me, what's all this shite about a book?"

"It's like this, Tommy" O'Donnell tried to explain. "This bunch of geezers, intellectuals and all like, have written a book about you and Ructions, and Davis and Tim Richards and all them'ns, and Noel and me are in it as well. It's about how we made a complete fucking mess of a phase of the Irish Revolution. Says we were a shower of eejits who couldn't make a Republic out of the freedom to be free and not only are we not free now we're not fucking Gaelic either. And its full of bad language as well."

"And the kind of bad language that's very badly written too, by the sound of it. So where's this group of intellectuals then. Bring them on to me now ‘til I refute one by one their treasonous propositions, ‘til I expose their fallacious reasoning, ‘til I tear somebody's fucken head off and feed it to him up his arsehole! Give the rest of the fuckers something to chew on an' all!"

"Nah, that's not on Tommy," said Redican. "The Hungry Brigade Collective", that's what they call themselves, they're dead shy about meeting up with dead people who're doubling up as characters in a book they've written. Its very confusing so it is Tommy."

"What the fuck are you on about? I'm dead. Doyle's dead. If some cunt'd put the heads of youse pair on a poster it'd make a bloody good ad for being dead. So why can't this dead shy bunch of intellectuals or whatever they are show up to fucken account for themselves like the rest of us." Marsh's pint of stout and his glass were both empty by this stage which was leading to a certain fragility about the integrity of his being in the world; and a consequent loss of his never very extensive reserves of patience.

O'Donnell moved behind the bar in an attempt to rescue the situation. Pints regularly pulled and large halfuns that were well on the way to being fulluns contributed to the success of this manoeuvre. As the newest, albeit oldest, potboy on the block helped himself to another bottle of the good stuff that Clarke in his slumbers was failing to keep an eye on, Redican ventured to improve on his recent answer.

"Well spotted there Tommy. Its a question of the meaning of death. For most people death is a different thing, a more final kinda thing, to the way death is to us...I mean to you."

"What the fuck are you blatherin' on about; a different kind of dead. Dead's dead... Isn't it?" Marsh was beginning to find the afterlife at least as complicated, certainly every bit as perplexing, as its forerunner had been. "Isn't it?" he repeated.

"No, it isn't," answered Redican firmly. "You see there's the Fenian Dead, which while Ireland holds the graves of them and isn't free, Ireland can never be at peace..."

"Pearse's last farewell to O'Donovan Rossa" Marsh interrupted, "So the fuck what?"

"That's what I'm trying to tell you if you'd just shut the fuck up for two minutes and fuckin' listen. There's the Fenian Dead and then there's everybody else that's dead. The rest can be at peace when they're dead but the Fenian Dead, while Ireland holds their graves and is unfree and cannot be at peace, they can't fucken be at peace either! Do you catch me drift now Tommy. You're the fucken Fenian Dead. Ireland's unfree. It can't be at peace. So neither can you!"

"Oh, yes. Well that's all right then. Nothing to do with religion. Nothing at all. Its politics. Just politics. The politics that fucked up me fucken life and now its fucken up me fucken death. But that's alright. Long as its nothing to do with no Bishop's balls and mumbo jumbo. I can live with that."

Speaking so glibly then of living, the dead Tommy Marsh grimaced a spectral grin around the bar and growled a greeting. "So you're here at last. What the fuck kept ye?"

The late Ructions Doyle moved hugely through the penumbral gloom."Evening lads. Long time no see. I'll take a seat here and a pint of that there and what's that you're trying to hide behind your back O'Donnell, a bottle of Coleraine's finest and blackest, is it? I'll have a drop of the Bush as well then."

Marsh stirred himself around the calm still centre of a freshly pulled well-collared pint. "I asked you a question Doyle. What kept ye?"

"The world, Tom" Ructions replied. "I have been about the world to see for meself and uncover the evil that's in it. And its bad Tom, I'm telling you. Its very bad. Did yez know its Four euros fifty a pint round in Grogan's now. Four fucking euros fifty for one fucking pint. Jaysus fucken wept!"

Ructions may have been about to testify some more, witnessing to the appalling state the living had allowed his Ireland to fall into, but as the wisp of some such thought or other worked itself up to crossing his mind he was momentarily distracted. Propped against an adjacent bar-stool was an old no-frills acoustic guitar he remembered from the sixties.

Some singer chap he couldn't quite put a name to had bought it from Ned Bulfin for £3 in Portarlington. He'd borrowed it from...Christy Moore, that was the fellah's name, but had somehow allowed himself to be persuaded to give it back.

"That was my 'road less travelled' moment, he thought. "I coulda been a contender. Ructions Doyle and the Planxties, something like that; concerts, records, money, women, drink, I coulda had all of that, but I took the other road." He picked up the guitar and examined it closely, looking between the frets and the strings for some sign of the might have beens. He could see no sign of them.

"There's more important things than the price of a pint in Grogan's when the Fenian Dead has to account for itself," said Fitzgerald, appearing, living or dead, it was hard to pin down exactly the existential state of him, to take to the centre of the floor. "Its not enough to say Ireland Unfree and expect the listener to understand we've embarked on a syllogism the final term of which is written in bombs and bullets. And as it is written, so must it be read and spoken."

Marsh scratched under his hat and stared at Ructions.

"Bombs and bullets," continued Fitzgerald, "Okay, that's how it worked out. Bombs and bullets. But that's not the irregular point we started from. We have lived with lies, damned lies and whatever completely fucken awful thing it was deValera saw when he looked into his heart, the appalling thing he mistook for the aspirations of the Irish People. Growing up with that, seeing what we saw, knowing what we knew, how could we have done other than we did."

"Whatever yeh say, Dan," said Marsh as comfortable yet as ever he had been with the vague generalisations and abstract formulations that pass for theoretical on the left wing of the Irish political pitch.

The bar was groaning now, with the weight of dead generations popping back from the skeletal into the healthy avoirdupois of resurrected life. Some of the mortality-challenged travelled light enough, carrying just pockets enough and bags for the duty-free they had somehow picked up on the way back from whichever other side they had got to. Others, besides duty free bottles of all brands and every brand, cigarettes, cigars and boxes of Belgian chocolates, had picked up retinues of hangers-on who were helping themselves to everything they could lay hands on, be it duty-free or duly pilfered.

It could be said the situation was getting out of control. Things were falling apart as the centre failed to hold. Mere anarchists were being loosed upon the world.

An affable irregular then—bluff, big-bellied, fair-haired figure—moved through the Peacock. Moved front and centre like a ghost of Fianna parade drills bred through generations to the bone.

And then irregularly but still affably spoke. Spoke in an amalgam of a voice that was mostly Cork with a little Dublin thrown in. Some London vowels too and the whisper of years in English jails. A Fenian voice.

"Who's that then?" Marsh asked.

"It's Conor Lynch!" said Pat Murphy, who had just appeared with a bundle of papers at a table with Denis Dennehy.

"Okay then," said Marsh to Fitzgerald. "Let's hear what he has to say."

So Lynch spoke. In the jailhouse whisper all Fenians hear with ease. "There was a year in which Patrick Pearse became himself, when the boldness in him that he took from Fintan Lalor and honed, when the boldness became him, when it led him from his schoolhouse to the steps of the G.P.O. and from there, all the way boldly, to Kilmainham and his grave. And don't tell me he's at rest. That Fenian dead man, Patrick Pearse."

Ructions strummed Christy Moore's guitar and began to sing, in a surprisingly light tenor for the bulk and the weight in the size of the ghost of him. "Glory O! Glory O! To the Bold Fenian Men!" and Marsh and the rest of them sang also. All of them carried away with the sense of occasion and the copious amounts of dead cheap liquor that flowed from the taps and optics of the long dead Peacock.

And Miss Reid, who had made her way from Grogan's by way of the Cobblestone to join the party, joined the song, singing

"T'was down by the glenside, I met an old woman,
a-plucking young nettles, she n'eer saw me coming,
I listened a while to the song she was humming,
Glory O! Glory O! to the Bold Fenian Men."

Around the music, while Ructions strummed and sang, and the rest of the rapidly filling bar sang, it filling rapidly with the quick and the dead, of which some were quicker yet than the living, and the bar itself being dead as death's own doornail, Lynch continued;

"There was a year in which James Connolly, the Republican Syndicalist, for the boldness in him that he took from Karl Marx, even more than from Fintan Lalor, when the boldness became him, when it led him from Liberty Hall to the steps of the G.P.O. and from there, all the way boldly, to Kilmainham and his grave. And don't tell me he's at peace there, with Ireland yet unfree. That Fenian dead man, James Connolly."

So far had he got, with the party all around him but without interruption; but no further. From the corner she had liberated and occupied with the boldness of herself, Miss Reid called out: "And what about the Countess then? And what about Lady Gregory who told the Tans in Abbey Street, 'Up The Republic'?"

Then an oulwan from Gardiner Street joined the heckle, shouting out, "What about our Hanna?" and when Lynch looked blankly back added "Sheehy Skeffington, you ignorant lout of a man! She stood beside me in Liberty Hall in the lockout, dishin' out dinners."

And Marsh called out to Lynch, "Give over yer fucken chauvinism, ye fucken Cork hooligan ye. Or Dublin, or London, or wherever the fuck yer from. Ye rootless cosmopolitan yeh!" And Marsh sang, "Glory O! Glory O! to the Bold Fenian Women!"

"Oh Tommy," Miss Reid said quietly, "How death becomes you! Sure you'd never have uttered such plain good sense and you living. You should have died years ago, you darling man."

Marsh was about to query the lack of logic, not to mention the questionable good fellowship, of that last remark when Lynch piped up again in an attempt to answer the hecklers.

"Come on now, its not as if I wrote that fucken song and anyway its you were singing it, Miss Reid, and anyway 'Fenian Men' is just in a manner of speaking to mean 'Fenian Women' as well. I've nothing but respect for Fenian Women. The greatest respect. Sure wasn't my mother, God bless her and keep her, one of the best of them. It's not my fault the Fenians were the Irish Republican Brotherhood. And if they'd been a Sisterhood that wouldn't have stopped me joining up. And..."

At which point Miss Reid interrupted the flow of his exculpatory tirade, "Calm yourself Conor. I'll not have you taking on so. On behalf of the Sisterhood - Ego Te Absolvo. Just compose yourself now and go back to what you were saying."

So he did.

"The thing is this, you see," he said, "it's the boldness is the thing. Its what's in us when we're in it, d'ye see what I mean?

"Alright, it was a Fenian boldness led Pearse and Connolly out in 1916. All those Fenian men and Fenian women and the boldness that was in them. A boldness that came of working people to stiffen the resolve of a nation.

"And don't ever say that was defeated at all, for it never was. The resolve of the nation was stiffened so that it voted in the 1918 general election, on damn near a universal suffrage, for independence for Ireland. Which the English then told them ‘fuck the right of small nations, go shove it up yer arses'.

"But they didn't shove it. They showed they meant it. The men and women armed and the columns flew. The War of Independence was fought with all the boldness any Fenian could wish for.

"And then the victories of those years were negotiated away by Collins and Griffith; the sharp boys, the clever ones. For there's no such thing as Fenian cleverness. We're bold enough for anyone, but we're not smart at all.

"Followed by the fratricidal war that had nothing the least bit civil about it. After which, Collins having agreed to partition the territory of the country, deValera took it on himself to partition the people. This when he re-formed Sinn Fein as the 26 county Soldiers of Destiny who wouldn't accept people living in Belfast or Derry to be members.

"On the Labour side of things, Tom Johnson, who with Connolly, O'Brien and Campbell, formed the Irish Trade Union Congress and Labour Party; Tom Johnson who drafted the First Dail's Democratic Programme; Tom Johnson who voted for Dictatorship of the Proletariat at the International Socialist Congress meeting in Berne; as leader of the Labour Party Tom Johnson led it into the Treatyite Dail to be oh such a very loyal opposition. That was clever of him.

"Fenian boldness laid the ground that the War Of Independence was fought on. Fenian boldness won the war. Then Fenian renegades undercut that victory and gave over the People of Ireland to the profiteers. Fenian renegades, old Fenians, so they knew what they were doing and how to do it well.

"And they did it well. When we came along in the sixties they had all the power and all the politics and we had nothing but what we always had; the boldness that is in us when we're in the struggle. We had that. But it wasn't enough..."

Edwards, who appeared to have a tusk growing out of his head, stepped from the gloom. He had been just waiting his chance to cut in on Lynch's dolly mixture of accents, which were straining his ears and hurting his brain.

"No, it wasn't enough, not nearly," he cut in. "Sure, sure, we were the Bold Fenian Men. We were ready for anything. But the Brigadiers collectively are right, in that fucken book that has us all here and now, living and dead, going over the same oul' shite for the hundredth fucken time. They're right. We fucked it up.

"Jaysus, but I'm sick of history! I've read it all, at one time or another. At one time or another I've known every fucken line and delineation of it. If I could blame history for the mess we made of our part in the revolutionary fucken struggle I would, and there isn't a fucker living, or dead, could stop me.

"But no! Fuck it, no! We fucked up because we rushed off, grabbing guns and blazing away without taking one minute out, just one, to think the fucken thing through. And why not? Why didn't we take some little time out for a moment's thought. Eh? Why not?

"Because we hadn't a smidgen of room among the lot of us for a thought to work in. We were too full of shit and fucken ego for a thought to have a chance…"

"Speak for yourself," Fitzgerald cut in, "I've known comrades who had too many thoughts." He spread his arms in a futile gesture and continued in a hollow, quaking voice, "thoughts insisting on the positive aspect of nothingness, thoughts that had them waffling in fucking riddles about permanent revolution..."

"And permanent copulation," muttered Marsh.

"…and Enver Hoxha because they considered ordinary language, English or Gaelic, to be inadequate, " Fitzgerald rattled on. "I've heard comrades gasbagging out of the corner of their mouths about the nameless terror that stalked the history of Ireland and I've soldiered with fellows whose clueless whims lurked in the bowels of their brains before rising slowly like bubbles from a gassy swamp, but who nevertheless, without the benefit of articulate theory, still fucking stood on the side of the Fenians."

"Ah yes," said Edwards, as he tapped the tusk with a white knuckle, "there were a lot of groups around the great subversion that started about 1964. All of them woulda said they were Fenians but I'd say now every fucken one of them was based less on ideology, whatever the fuck that is when its at home, than on a series of accidents as to who was available at a given time and up for a bit of devilment. It was always political to begin with, but who knows where the politics went when the blood rushed to some people's fucken egos."

"You're right," agreed Fitzgerald. "There was an ego-driven-feeding-frenzy for arms that, at times, took precedence over the struggle against the capitalist imperialist tinga- ma-fucking-jig, when we should have been mobilizing a citizen's army as an armed cutting force to prevent the privatisation of our public services and the economic rape of ninety nine per cent of the great unwashed instead of being doomed to remain a curious, temporary, unrepresentative phenomenon being shadowed around the back lanes by gobshites like Pah Wah and Mickser and..."

"Yes, yes, alright Dan," Lynch interjected. "I see what ye mean. But it just underscrores what I'm saying about the need for politics. As Lenin said about revolutionary theory..."

Fitzgerald raised his hand, "Sheeeee......Listen."

"What?" asked Ructions.

"Do yis not hear it? A perturbation in the jacks!"

"That's the right place for that sort of thing." Marsh laughed.

Even the expansive Lynch was forced to shut his trap as a sort of whooshing sound could be heard in the toilet region of the grimly grey and grisly ghost of a pub. The pale faced revelers gathered in a curious bunch at the top table and watched what appeared to be a gurgling disturbance materializing in the whirling gloom.

"I think someone is trying to come through," said Murphy.

"Maybe it's Karl Marx!!" Fitzgerald speculated as he peered into the grey turbulence. "He did support the Fenians after all, an' sure didn't he marry a Fenian, or was that Engels?"

"Marry a Fenian?" asked one.

"Marry Engels?" asked another.

"A Fenian woman!"

"Oh!"

Redican took advantage of this most recent confusion to draw O'Donnell aside for a conversation both sotto voce and strategic. "This is getting ridiculous," he said.

"Whaddya mean, ‘getting ridiculous'," O'Donnell replied, "it started out ridiculous! Then it got bizarre. And now its somewhere or other up Salvador Dali's fucking arse. The question is, what are the two of us going to do about it? We're the go-betweens, the sorta like ‘responsible adults' kinda thing."

"Us? Responsible?"

"I know, I know," groaned O'Donnell wearily. "But we have to do something. This is supposed to be the introduction which provides the explanation to hold the Collective's stories together as a book. But its nothing of the sort. With this at the beginning there isn't a fucking sinner is going to read the stories."

"Well," Redican said tentatively, ruminating as he spoke, "Maybe we could move it to the end, where nobody would see it."

O'Donnell brightened up on the spot. "Noel, yer a genius," he said. "We'll stuff it round the back where nobody'll ever look for the fucking thing. Come on, lets round up some navvies and get the fucker shifted."

"But nobody'll ever know it was us did it" thought Redican. "They'll just see "introduction" at the wrong end of the contents list and wonder what fucken idiot it was typeset the bastard. Its not as if anyone's ever going to read this. Ah well, they also serve..."

The pair moved quietly, surreptitiously slipping out of the bar—into which something ominous was still trying to gain access. As they exited into Dublin, it entered the Peacock by way of the jacks.

"Get out of my way yuh cunt, I know my rights yuh know. I know the fuckers are in there transgressing every law in the green book," an angry voice demanded.

"That's no Kraut, that's a Kerry accent." said Dennehy, the Kerry anarcho/communist who despite his years in London and Dublin could distinguish county accents to the nearest ten miles. (In London he had correctly identified the exiled Brendan Clifford as being a Kerryman, but then some officious clerk fiddled the townland borders around Boherbue and Clifford discovered he'd been from Cork all along. Understandably, he hasn't stopped bragging about it since.)

The toilet door burst open and the sucking sound ceased as a hefty figure in a dark hat and a heavy overcoat solidified in front of the merry makers.

"It's the Slug." Ructions shouted, raising Moore's guitar above his head, "I'll banjo the fucker with an F minor."

"Take it easy." advised Murphy.

"Erect a barricade." ordered Fitzgerald, "there could be a moxy load of fuckers in the sewers behind him."

"Not in my pub," warned Clarke, having been woken by the commotion. "Yis are not in Derry now."

"I have yez after all this time." the Slug proclaimed. "After all this time I have the fucken lot of yez, after all the bum steers by those nackers, Josh and Nobber, who tried to throw me off the scent so that they would get all the glory, the fuckers." He laughed and slapped his thigh, "they have worked well in secret. They think they have pulled the wool over me eyes, as yez fuckers thought. They think that they have forseen everything, think that they have provided against everything, but the fools, the fools, the fools—they don't know that I have yez under the Offences Against the State Act..."

"Here we go again," muttered Miss Reid.

"The Intoxicating Liqueur Act and as for you yuh little bootlegger from the Border, gee-eyed behind the counter of a licensed premises in the middle of a capital city."

"Isn't that plagiarism?" remarked Lynch.

"Well he may as well throw in conspiracy while he's at it," suggested a sneering Marsh.

"You won't be arresting anyone here tonight, because you're not here, factually speaking," alleged Murphy.

"Oh! So I'm not here." The Slug stamped on the floor and some small bits of plaster fell from the ceiling, "An' where the fuck would yuh think I am, factually speaking?"

"Somewhere fucking else like," suggested Dennehy.

"Like where?"

"Like up someone's arse maybe. For all we know yeh could be a walking reincarnation of the last good shit Jack Lynch ever had. But the one sure thing we do know is that yer not Fenian Dead."

"Definitely not Fenian Dead," agreed Ructions.

"You could be eh, on the beat dead or up the Garda Commissioner's arse dead..."

"Or baton charge dead," added Marsh.

"Or false evidence dead," said Lynch.

"Not to mention..." said Ructions.

"Not to mention, talking through youse arses dead," said the Slug.

He slapped himself on the face. "D'yuh hear that. I'm alive. I'm here and what's more to the point yeze are here an' we can let the dear departed rest and let the living..."

"That's the point yeh see we can't rest because we're Fenian Dead and while Ireland holds these graves...." explained Fitzgerald.

"Yes, yes, yes, Ireland unfree, I know that baloney..."

"All that baloney means is that you're dead, religious dead, and you shouldn't be here."

"Religious dead, Fenian Dead!!! Have yeze cunts been at the poteen?" the Slug looked at Clarke who was now beginning to doze off again behind the counter.

"But ye're religious dead yah thick cunt. Flattened by a double decker bus in Westmoreland Street about seven years ago when you were chasing a dipper," snarled Marsh, almost once again overextending his limited reserves of patience.

"I'm Special Branch," the Slug shouted triumphantly, "I don't do pickpockets, Sunshine."

"You were Special Branch before the cutbacks," explained Fitzgerald.

"Cutbacks?"

"Yep. Cutbacks because of the recession, and then there was the Peace Process."

The Slug looked bewildered. He lit a cigarette. "I never heard of any of this."

"Sure how could you," Fitzgerald sympathized, "and you lying in the arsehole of a Kerry graveyard until moments ago and this, the middle of winter and the snow falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly..."

"Is that the falling on the living and the dead bit?" inquired Marsh.

"Yep,"

"Is that not copyright?"

"Sure how could it be copyright Tommy? I'm not fucking writing it. I'm only saying it. Repeating what Tommy Byrne just said."

"Is Byrne here? The Byrne who lived in Hardwicke Street flats opposite George's Church, who kept going on about the creak and the whirr in the air high up, the bells blah blah loud dark iron..."

"The very same. He just walked in white as a sheet, saying that the snow outside was falling on the living an' the dead."

"Ah!"

Fitzgerald took a gulp from his pint of Guinness and pulled his chair forward. He apologized to the Slug for the interruption and beckoned him to sit down. Then he examined some of his finger nails and cleared his throat. The others crowded around the table.

Tim Richards, like a phantom, sidled up to the company. "Does he need a solicitor?"

"No Tim, I'm only marking his card about what's been going on."

"I see."

"It's simple really, two words," began Fitzgerald. "Neo-liberalism. Fuck the labour theory of surplus value and all that jazz...fuck Marx, fuck even Keynes, fuck anyone who doesn't want to drag the whole machinery of government into a bathroom and drown it,"

"I'm not with yuh," said the Slug whose ham-like face had adopted quizzical features.

"I know it's a bit fucking complicated for the likes of you," Fitzgerald continued, "but bear with me as this happened after the smack of the bus, remember?"

The Slug winced. As he was about to speak Fitzgerald leaned across and reaching out an arm he pressed a finger on the Slugs lips. The Slug blinked.

"Cutbacks in the public sector," continued Fitzgerald. "Chop, chop, chop." He made pretend karate chops with his hand on the table. The glasses hopped a little. "Cops, nurses, teachers. You think of any body of workers that society needs and they were chopped."

The Slug thought about this. "Why?" he asked.

Fitzgerald took another glug and lit up a cigarette. "You see there was this crowd of mad fuckers, who were really very intelligent in a perverse sort of way. They formed a political party with the slogan "axe-tax." Then by a bit of a fluke they got into government with Fianna Fail and they declared war on the public sector."

"Why?"

"They didn't believe in society," ventured Lynch.

"They preyed on peoples' greed. Low taxes for the rich, low wages for the poor," explained Fitzgerald.

"Exactly. They made greed the greatest human virtue," said Murphy who had been seated at the counter working on a programme that would give unionised workers the right to examine company books.

"Then there was the oil crisis, unemployment, emigration and naturally a big increase in dippers,"

"Dippers galore," confirmed Byrne.

"I told yuh I was Special Branch."

"That was before the Peace Process," said Lynch.

"The peace....?"

Fitzgerald stubbed his cigarette and blew elongated smoke rings over the head of the Slug from the remains of his last drag, "Yep. The Shinners did a deal with the Proddies."

"As Denis and meself years ago said they would have to," said Murphy.

"They won't have to take the boats to Scotland after all," Ructions surmised. "Come back Ian, all is forgiven?"

"Know what he means?"

"Of course. Then we could concentrate all our efforts on nabbing youse."

"Wrong time. Yeh see we had all retired by then and youse only managed to get a few of us."

"Like Marsh?"

"Yeh never got me pal!"

"Well, with us off the scene as well, the Special Branch was demobbed and people like yerself were sent off chasing dippers, and bang! But you got a big funeral for a..."

"Hopeless messer," Marsh cut in.

"Don't be cruel Tommy," Miss Reid appealed.

The Slug was devastated by this sorrowful historical recitation. He sagged in the stool. Murphy, stepping over Clarke, who was now prostrate on the floor, took down a bottle of Jack Daniels whiskey from the top shelf as Ructions had more or less confiscated the good Irish stuff. He placed a double measure in front of the Slug and an extra measure again in front of himself. "On the House."

"Galvin was at the funeral as an official intelligence officer," Marsh whispered to Ructions. "Hiding in one of the confession boxes he watched them all rushing up to be the first to shake the widow's hand, all bum and tits she was, and they were telling her that he was the greatest fucking thing since Sherlock Holmes. Then in the pub later he heard Josh and Nobber say that he was the sneakiest fucker that ever crawled across the Castle Yard."

"That was a glowing reference for a harrier all the same," Ructions laughed.

Marsh's left shoulder twitched and twitched again, a sure sign that something was going on in his head.

"What?" asked Ructions.

"I was just thinking that the O'Donovan Rossa fella fucked up our deaths and we can't be at peace..."

"Yeah?"

"Well how did he get here? I mean he should be still in the Kerry graveyard with the snow pelting down on top of him, shouldn't he?"

"That's a good point," said Byrne.

"I mean he's religious dead, Bishop's balls an' all that. He shouldn't be running around chasing us. You are religious aren't yeh, yeh know like, wear the caps off yer knees kneeling in the church?"

"I'm a daily communicant," confirmed the Slug. "I would die for me faith, no meat on a Friday, here look at these..."

The Slug stood up and began to forage in his overcoat pockets. An anxious look crept over his large face. "Jeeesus!!!." His hands began to move quickly from his overcoat pockets to his trouser pockets and then onto his jacket pockets. He then initiated a furious search of whatever inside pockets his clothing contained before he started to pat himself all over his body as his agitation grew.

"Is he full of fleas or what?" wondered Ructions.

"Me Rosary beads," said the Slug in a trembling voice, "I've never been without them, never, pure Mother of Pearl, Blessed by the Cistercians, Jesus!!! But wait an' I show yez these." He began to fooster inside his shirt. Soon he was furiously slapping his chest as he tore at the shirt. "Me scapulars, me Miraculous Medal dedicated to the Virgin Mary, fucking gone." He looked at the audience, a desperate expression on his face. "Wait," he shouted, "wait an' see this," He loosened his trousers and lowered them to his knees.

"He wants to show us his cock," said Fitzgerald.

"Me red flannel to Saint Blaize, I had it around me waist. It's gone too," he cried out.

Fitzgerald stared at him. The news, for the second time, detonated an irrational frenzy which cybernetically criss-crossed at the speed of light the molecular structures of deoxyribonucleic acid still sparking in his brain. "That's it," he shouted. "He's fucking contaminated."

"He came out of the jacks." Byrne concurred.

"Chasing us has contaminated him, anthropologically speaking."

"Whatever yer having yerself Dan," Marsh muttered.

"Contaminated!!! The jacks!!! How fucking dare yez!!!" the Slug protested. "I'll have yez know that I spent all my life upholding law and order."

"For the rich," Ructions quipped.

"For the benefit of all society. Wasn't all before me in the service of the state."

"How d'yah mean all before you?" inquired Miss Reid.

"Didn't me great uncle come up from Kerry and serve in the DMP."

"The DMP!! Huh! William Martin Murphy's private police force. I tell yeh something pal, I'd have loved to have bumped into yer uncle in a dark alley," said Marsh.

"And didn't his brother make the ultimate sacrifice in the Great War fighting for the freedom of small nations," continued the Slug, ignoring Marsh's wish to alter the course of the history of the 1913 Lockout.

The desolation was filled by a squelching sound as Plopps entered and uttered an indecipherable greeting from the bowels of one of his bellies.

"That British Army fellow could have been on Connolly's firing squad," said Ructions.

"He was in Ypres from 1915," the Slug replied in a low voice.

"Invading Europe," Dennehy snapped.

"He was at war, doing his duty. Protecting England and Ireland. He wasn't invading places," the Slug protested.

"Germany or the Austro-Hungarians didn't attack or invade England. It was the Brits who declared war and invaded them," said Fitzgerald. "In fact since then the Brits have invaded nearly every fucking country on the globe. And they were helped in this by thousands of Irishmen who were deluded psychopaths...."

"Hang on a second there me bucko, you're fucking describing yourself now. Deluded psychopaths!!!" the Slug scoffed.

Fitzgerald ordered another round of drinks from Byrne who was now helping out the snoring Clarke.

"Well the way I see it," Fitzgerald reasoned, "is that those Irishmen in the so called Great War either joined the British Army because they were mercenaries, were looking for excitement or were deluded psychos who ran around Europe killing people in their thousands and, in turn, were fucking killed in their thousands, while they were promoting the British Empire by the bayonet; and that's not to count the surrogates who stayed here as RIC and DMP men and helped the Black and Tans and the Auxies to burn towns and torture and murder Irishmen."

The Slug gave a nervous laugh as he lit a cigarette. "Now why does burning towns remind me of someone here?" he muttered. Then he stared dolefully into his whiskey glass.

"Have another drop in that," Byrne recommended, "You look a bit shocked. Doesn't he look a bit shocked Dennis?"

"He looks like he's seen a ghost."

"They don't teach that kind of history in the Castle," said Ructions.

A strange swishing sound emanated from the toilet. This was followed by a thumping in the dark air and pulsating plopping noises.

"I didn't see anyone go into the jacks," said Dennehy.

"It sounds like Plopps but he's at the counter," confirmed Fitzgerald. Suddenly the toilet door burst open and out sprang the lithe, late figure of Blackie Byrne the Branchman.

"It's another fucking contaminant," warned Fitzgerald.

Byrne, his graying black hair combed back, was dressed in a smart suit. He peered into the gloomy interior for a few seconds. Then he suddenly pulled a .38 colt from a shoulder holster and stepped forward like a cock on the sixth of January.

"I have yis now," he shouted. "Where's the fuckers who blew up me lovely car in Pearse Street? Come out," he demanded, "come out an' face the music yis cowardly fuckers."

"It's alright Blackie, we're really not here because we're all dead or..."

"What are you gasbagging about an' what are yeh doing with them you sneaky fucker with yer trousers down around yer ankles?"

"Why doesn't he fuck off and complain to the confidential recipient," suggested Dennehy.

Once more the commotion woke Clarke. He jumped to his feet and couldn't believe his eyes when he saw Byrne dancing around with the unholstered gun in contravention of his notice, (lovingly painted by a local artist who had correctly spelled the word ‘prohibited' on the third attempt) banning firearms on the premises. Without any thought of his own personal safety, Clarke, despite his small stature, threw himself at Byrne, grabbing his wrist. There was a brief struggle and the gun went off with a loud bang; the sound somewhat muffled, because at the same time Plopps happened to be clearing his throat so that he could deliver an erudite rendition of his favourite song: ‘The Men Behind the Wire.'

The bullet ricocheted off the elongated heel of the boot which Murphy wore on his short leg and disappeared in the direction of the toilet. The sudden excitement caused the hairs to stand on the back of Marsh's neck and he delivered a straight left into the face of the Slug. A loud gasping sound filled the toilet area and Dennehy felt something grab him around the neck.

"There's fucking more of them," Fitzgerald roared, as the seven pillars of wisdom collapsed and heaven and hell both came to the Peacock, tooled up for action and rarin' for a row.

Ragnarok, the Twilight of the Gods and the end of life as once we knew it, was, it transpired, much as the Northmen had expected and sung about.

The Midgard Serpent, Jormungand, raised his head in O'Connell Street by The Spike and demanded his immigrant's right to unemployment benefit. Fenris Wolf jumped on Howth Head and howled at the passing ferries. Hel Lokisdottir transported herself to Ballyfermot, whence a chanting coven of the Connolly Youth Movement had summoned her, for purposes of which Mick Riordan would surely have disapproved.

"Oh happy days," exulted Marsh, heaving himself into the middle of he knew not what.

"Are here again," sang Ructions, brandishing the Portarlington Guitar like a weapon of mass destruction as he jumped headlong for the fun of whatever the fuck fray it chanced to be.

Cries of "Author!" "Author!" "Come out the fuck, whoever yez are!" "Where's the fucken eejits authored this pile of shit?" mingled with a general chorus of disapprobation as the broiling mob of unquiet Fenians and rioting Branchmen cascaded from the overflowing Peacock, heading for the river and the bridges over it. Lemminglike they were making for Grogan's, that oasis of civilised calm on the South Side, where at least they wouldn't have to watch the News on RTE.

Meanwhile, floating down from the darkest Cobblestone through darker Smithfield to land darksome on Arran Quay, Young Aengus composed himself. Walking now with two flaming haired Gaelic beauties, one on each arm, The Chairman of the Hungry Brigade Collective addressed the night.

"Don't worry lads and lasses," he announced. "The moral of our tale will soon be clear. Just give me a moment now, or two, a few seconds, and to all of yis I will tell all. I'll answer all questions and settle all disputes." So he filled such of his lungs as Gold Flake and John Player had left intact. "Ahhhh, but it's fine to wake again," he said, "and walk the... riverrun ..."

"No, Aengus. No!" whispered Helen to the right of him. "Sure that's the start of a whole other book."

From his left Fidelma smiled, "Yes."

 

linking

 

Still Protesting

Moore Street Protest, 2012. From left to right: Larry Doyle, trade union activist; Des Keane; Tom O'Connor; Dan O'Connor; Noel Redican; Liam Sutcliffe; Simon O'Donnell; Jer O'Leary, actor. (Photo by Richard Whelan.)